Thursday, 12 November 2015

Missed Classic 14: Adventure Quest (1983) - Introduction

By Ilmari

Dude, could you wear a bit longer skirt?

Middle Earth is a tranquil and peaceful place. The problems with the Dark Lord Sauron are ancient history, and no dragon has been seen since the sack of Esgaroth. The last elves sailed for the West centuries ago, after the rescue of their fellows from the dungeons below Colossal Cavern. Indeed nothing remotely interesting has happened for ages, and the ordinary folk lead peaceful, mundane and - for the most part – contented rural lives. At least this was true until a year ago.

No, this is not script for Peter Jackson's new movie (although Peter, if you are reading, you would have material for a new trilogy here).

Instead, this a direct quotation from the manual of Adventure Quest, the next game in Level 9's Middle-Earth trilogy. The first game had only a tenuous relation to Tolkien's work, but not so here! There's already a mention of Sauron and Esgaroth, and in a moment we'll hear about Amon Sul and Minas Tirith. There's also this weird place called Colossal Cavern, but that's just the location of the first game, Colossal Adventure.

Of course, the manual lies. I definitely remember killing a dragon in the first game, and that must have happened after the sack of Esgaroth. Then again, I killed it with my bare hands, so maybe it was just too small to be inscribed in legends.

It definitely was so small I could not see it

The manual continues by describing a series of catastrophes, culminating in an attack of a vast army of orcs (Peter Jackson, are you listening?). Finally, a messenger appears with the following ultimatum:

"My Lord AGALIAREPT calls on you to surrender. Even now His armies are sweeping towards you and He cannot be defeated in battle. If you surrender, you will be permitted the boon of death with dignity, otherwise it will be much worse when you are defeated. You will have one week to decide."

AGALIAREPT is actually one of the demons in medieval mythology

The local King (probably not the Aragorn) decides to call a meeting of the Wizards Guild, which is hauled before the throne and issued with an ultimatum. The Guild decides there's only one possible option - they order an apprentice magician to deal with the threat. Have I heard this story before?

It's the plot of this game!

If the dates in Mobygames are reliable, both Enchanter and Adventure Quest were published in the same year (1983), so I doubt either one copied the other (although my suspicions fall on latter with its less imaginative title).

Getting on with the plot, the base of the Demon Lord's power has been discovered. AGALIAREPT has taken up residence in the Dark Tower, on the far edge of the world. The Guild says they are planning an attack, but they also have another plan.

"Perhaps one person, acting alone, could find the four Stones-of-the-Elements and use them to enter the tower. Then, the Medallion-of-Life could perhaps enable you to defeat the Demon." 

The plan sounds so familiar that I instantly thought that the apprentice must have some Hobbit blood in him.

Peter Jackson, you have to see the potential here!
Think about it, you could hire Elijah Wood and let him play
greatgreatgreatgreatgrandson of Frodo.

The gullib... gallant hero is dressed in travel clothes and took before a tele portal (it says so in the manual so it must be the correct spelling). Entering it, he finds himself at the end of a road, outside a small brick building.

Before I start the game itself, I should probably note that I am again playing both the original non-graphical version together with the graphical version, in which all the reference to Middle-Earth have been erased. I will use latter for the screenshots, but the official score (which you can guess) will be for the original version. I am using David Kinder's Level 9 interpreter, which has the ability to search for Level 9 game data in any file given. The files themselves are from the Spectrum version of the game, so the graphics should be reasonably true to the original, although the fonts look quite modern. So, let's begin!

Yonder and Back Again for Tea, by Gumbo Baggins, chapter 1: Garlic Breath is NOT a Plus on Tinder (Except if You are into Ogres)

Wizards have been the bane of my family since the time immemorial and it seems I have to continue this wretched tradition. Stranded in a wilderness, with nothing to eat and a long stretch of desert to cross. By Elbereth, I hate those bearded wiseguys!

You know, I just despise mazes. And when a game begins with not just one, but with two mazes in near vicinity of the starting position, I am ready to throw the imaginary game box to wolves and worms. Especially as the game has been so eager to feed me to various beasts in those mazes.

You'd think it would be impossible to get lost in a forest of just seven skareens

The forest to the west of starting position is the nicer maze. It's almost empty, except for wolves, who keep coming at you randomly, and a huge oak tree, containing a silver ball. Apparently, wolves are timid creatures, as throwing the ball at them makes them run away.

North of the starting position lies the other maze, the desert, which has been a hell to map. It's not just the thirst factor (there's a source of water nearby), but more the sand worm that with no clear logic just comes and grabs you for lunch once in a while. Suffice to say, the only thing of interest I've managed to find yet in this hellhole is a black pillar with a white dot. I have no idea what to do with it.

Looks like a giant black beer keg.
The sand sliding softly is a warning that I am going to be eaten by the sand worm

Thankfully it's not just mazes around here. The very first screen is actually the same spot, from which the first game began, that is, the well house. The house contains a bottle, some fruit, keys and a sling - and a small table. There's also the well, which is now filled with water and from which you can fill your bottle.

Just like in the first game, you can follow the stream moving to south of the house, all the way to the entrance of Colossal Cavern. As it happens, the place is shut up, so it's just a nice call-back to the earlier game. Still, I manage to find an orchid in steep gulley nearby, except it is just out of my reach. Yeah, I know, I'll carry that table around, drop it here and pick up the orchid.

The east is then the only direction left. At first, I find an onion rolling around my direction.

I have a feeling I'll be meeting a vampire in the future

Notice how the graphical version is lacking the extra line

I also come up with a pinnacle, which is probably the one I thought must be Cirith Ungol in the first game. At the top of pinnacle, I find a stick, which has the curious effect of sprouting up fruits, whenever put down. Also, a wizard hands me a scroll:

"Take the Talisman to the Black Tower through the four elements twice. It can defeat the Demon Lord, but only a companion can bring victory at the end. The Talisman is nearby, but you will also need 4 Stones to gain entry and these are guarded by servants of the Enemy. You are the only hope for Middle Earth - the High Council lied when they pretended otherwise. The blesssing of Typo, god of Adventures, goes with you. Good Luck!"

Yes, blesssing is apparently spelled like that - although given the name of the god, this might be an intentional joke. I am a bit perplexed where the god Typo fits in the Tolkien mythology. Perhaps it is some of the maiar, unmentioned in the tales, or then it's just a nickname of some vala.

He is not happy with Level 9 meddling with his tales
The only thing left to find in the eastern parts of the area is a unicorn (I bet the old J.R.R. would just love these additions to the fauna of Middle-Earth). After some failed attempts to ride it, I try to give it the orchid, which the unicorn accepts. Then it shows me a previously hidden path, taking me to a clearing with pipes and a medallion, which is probably the Talisman the scroll talked about.

And that concludes my travels through the late ages of the Middle Earth thus far. Since I have searched the other places thoroughly, I suppose I must now try to continue with mapping the desert *sigh*.

Session time: 2 and half hours.
Total time: 2 and half hours.

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.


  1. Wizards have been the boon of my family since the time immemorial

    Perchance you meant "bane" instead of "boon"?

    1. But of course! Thanks for noticing it.

    2. It's a matter of perspective, don't you think?

  2. Sounds like it's less of a ripoff of another game, so maybe it will fare a little better? Rating guess: 28

  3. GOG have a giant sale on including many Quest titles, Deponia titles and so on. It'd take hours to go into exactly what - it's not exactly a small sale.

    As for this? Yeeeeeah. It feels sorta like LotR fanfiction. I'm gonna go 24 for.. feeling like that.

    1. I've progressed somewhat and it sure does feel more and more like fanfiction. Then again, I am not sure if that's a bad thing, The Hobbit films felt like fanfiction at times, but they were (mostly) entertaining still.

    2. I want Planescape: Torment to go on sale :-(

      Unlike Steam, GoG doesn't seem to have the ability to notify you with an e-mail when a wishlisted game gets a discount.

    3. I'd actually hesitate to call these games fanfiction; that usually implies that you're attempting to write a new story in another author's universe. These are more basic, it's just names here and there (e.g. if you need a dark lord, call him "Sauron"). There's no attempt to reproduce the geography of Middle-Earth or anything... and let's not forget all the evil, elf-imprisoning dwarves in the first game (who mostly came from the original Adventure, and have nothing to do with Tolkien's dwarves).

  4. Notice how the graphical version is lacking the extra line

    Hmm, this suggests to me that both versions you're playing are from the Jewels of Darkness re-release (without the Tolkien references, released in 1986).

    I've just checked, and this game (like the other two in the trilogy) has these versions on a Spectrum:

    1- original 1983 release, text only, short text, Tolkien stuff
    2- JoD 48k version, with graphics (on side A of the tape), short text, no Tolkien stuff
    3- JoD alternate 48k version (on side B of the tape), text only, long text, no Tolkien stuff
    4- JoD 128k version (load side B on a Spectrum 128 in 128k mode), with graphics, long text, no Tolkien stuff. This version also adds RAM SAVE/RESTORE and OOPS.

    My guess is that you're playing versions 2 and 3 from the list above. I could be wrong, of course (for instance, if you see any Tolkien stuff in one of the versions you're using, then I am definitely wrong).

    You can use version 4 above in Kinder's interpreter, as long as you have it in .SNA format (which would require you to load the .TZX version in a Spectrum emulator first, then save a snapshot of it). It might, however, be easier to just use (again, in the interpreter) the DOS version, which has the same features (and almost the same graphics).

    1. Thanks for all the info about the different versions!. The text-based version I used was at least marked as original release. At this point there has been at least one mention of Middle-Earth, namely, in the scroll I mentioned above (I forgot to mention it, but there's no mention of Middle-Earth in the graphical version). Also, the use of OOPS appears to be possible in the graphical version I am playing, if that is a distinguishing point between different versions.

      I actually had to stop playing the all-text version I had been using, since I encountered a puzzle I couldn't get through, even with the help of the official clue sheet (a command that should have worked according to the clue sheet just didn't work). At the end, I decided to try a text-based version for another computer, this time using a proper emulator, and at least I could get through this puzzle. You can find out the details in my next post.

    2. Thanks for the reply! Meanwhile, I made a mistake: the original (1983) Spectrum all-text release *does* have more text than the JoD (1986) 48k graphical version (for instance, it includes the line about the dead vegetation down-wind when you eat the onion). So I guess that you were actually playing versions 1 and 2 from my list above (with version 1 corrected to say "long text").

      Something else I just tested: the original release doesn't support OOPS either under emulation or the interpreter, but the 48k JoD graphical version *does* support it under the interpreter (even though it doesn't advertise it at the start), even though, under emulation, it gives the message "Sorry, we couldn't fit that facility into this version" when you try it. So I guess the fact that it worked in your version comes from the interpreter; on the real thing, you'd need to be playing the 128k version (which does advertise the extra features when you load it up) for it to work.

      Can't wait for the next post. :)

  5. I shall say 19. What an odd game this is!